Tag Archives: Honesty

Seven Reasons to Become a Quitter in 2016 (and Why Ditching These Bad Habits Can Make This Your Happiest Year Yet)

Life is built on routines. It’s easy to go years—or even decades—without consciously assessing what’s working and what’s not. As a result, many of us are surrounded by people, obligations, objects, and habits that aren’t exactly making our lives better (far from it!). Well, no more. With a new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to take a fresh look at your daily existence—and drop all the dead weight that’s holding you back.

We tend to think of “quitting” as a bad thing, but the fact is, the things that used to fit well into your life may not be honoring who you are now. It’s very important to live on purpose, not by accident. So instead of piling even more responsibilities onto your plate in the form of overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions, resolve to become a quitter in 2016. Here are seven habits and behaviors you might want to consider leaving behind:

Quit making excuses about your health. Have you been meaning to lose a few pounds (for the last 10 years)? It’s so easy to bump exercise and healthy eating to the bottom of your to-do list. There are usually so many other tasks that seem more pressing: Get that report to the boss. Set up a time to get the car inspected. Make sure the kids get to cello lessons on time. Meanwhile, you tell yourself, I’ll start going to spin class next week. Problem is, “next week” never arrives.

If you don’t like the number you see on the scale, it’s time for the excuses to stop, regardless of how legitimate they are. And there’s a good reason for this tough love: Your weight isn’t just about your silhouette—it’s about your health, your energy level, and your confidence, too.

Quit burning the candle at both ends. Do you pack your days too full and get too little sleep in order to accomplish everything you want to? You may think you’re getting ahead, but in reality, you’re hurting your quality of life. There are more studies coming out each year that affirm the health benefits of getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

If you make taking care of yourself more of a priority, you’ll feel better about taking care of other people and have more energy throughout the day. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s healthy and necessary. Whether you spend a day at the spa or simply take ten minutes to purchase and enjoy a cup of hot tea in the midst of running errands, investing in yourself will make you more resilient and will also reduce your stress and tension.

Quit spending so much time with people who don’t enrich your life. How many people do you regularly spend time with—even though you don’t really want to? You know the ones: Perhaps your sister-in-law constantly asks to get together, but spends the entire time criticizing everything from your clothes to your career to your parenting. Or maybe a certain frenemy peppers the conversation with backhanded compliments and one-upmanship, making you feel like your whole life has been one long series of bad decisions.

People with whom you feel obligated to spend time can suck up your energy and positive outlook, dragging down an otherwise great day or week. Often it’s impossible to back out of the relationship entirely, but there are things you can do to minimize its negative impact on your life. First, make sure you have set up clear boundaries. In some cases, people might not realize how bad they’re making you feel! And second, remember that you can gracefully say no to one social activity while accepting another, more positive one.

Quit saying yes to everything. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life.

You don’t have to chair every event, take on every project, host every party, participate in every activity, and accept every invitation. Remember, you—not your boss, your friend, or your child’s teacher—are in charge of your calendar. Right now, as 2016 is just beginning, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest.

Quit at least one bad habit. Maybe you’re always running late, or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.

To start, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!

Quit looking “good enough.” Most of us will never be runway models, but that’s no reason to settle for a humdrum, forgettable appearance. Wearing clothes (or a haircut, or makeup) that are dated, not flattering, or “good enough” isn’t doing your self-image any favors. And like it or not, people really do judge a book by its cover. Don’t you want to make an impression that clearly communicates your drive, personality, and confidence?

Get clear on colors and styles that are most flattering for your age, coloring, and body type, and stick with those guidelines whenever you make a new purchase. You might also want to ask a trusted friend for honest advice. But if you want more personalized results, I recommend working with an image consultant whose trained eye can help you to look your absolute best.

Quit spending so much time inside. This year, make a resolution to get more fresh air. Take a walk, run, or bike ride a few times each week—or just sit in a local park or on your back porch while reading a book. Getting out of your office or living room will help you think about yourself and your life from a whole new perspective.

Spending time outside helps you clear your mind, makes you feel more energized, and improves your health. What’s more, doing even the most minimal exercise outdoors helps emphasize the need to drink more water and take care of your skin with sunscreen and moisturizer. And if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful pictures that only nature can paint will put you in a great mood for the whole day. It’s a totally different experience than sitting on the couch to watch a movie.
The beginning of a brand new year is the perfect time to reassess your life. Instead of adding more things to your 2016 to-do list, do yourself a favor and jettison what’s no longer working for you. When you get rid of habits, mindsets, and behaviors that are dragging you down, you’ll make room for new things that make you feel good and help you grow.

Anniversary Reflections: The Little Things Are the Big Things

“A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise.”
—Richard Bach

On May 21st, my husband, Barry, and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t talk about how lucky we feel to have found such a wonderful relationship that’s characterized by respect, trust, and communication, and marriage has only made it better. When you feel loved by another and trust in that love, you are able to become your best self because of your partner’s support.

Barry and I have found that we’re able to keep our relationship strong because we pay attention and work at it every day—it doesn’t just happen. Here, I’d like to share some everyday ways Barry and I nurture our relationship. The overarching theme is being present in each other’s lives and making each other our first priority—I can’t emphasize enough how important that is! Turns out, the “little” things aren’t really little at all. They make a tremendous difference.

Barry and I certainly aren’t the “authority” on good relationships—we’ve simply sought out strategies that are proven to work, and indeed, these do work for us.

Check in during the day if you can. A brief phone call or text is all it takes to let your partner know that he or she is on your mind. But the few seconds it takes to make that connection can turn an average day into a great one for both of you. In the midst of your other responsibilities, it’s wonderful when your partner affirms the importance of your relationship. Of course, life is busy, so don’t worry if there are days when you can’t check in until the workday is done!

Make dinner conversations count. I get it—at the end of the day, you’re exhausted and running on autopilot. But if you can muster up the energy, it’s a good idea to sit down over a meal and talk about one another’s days. This may be one of the few times when you’re together, so make it count! Pay attention to what you really want to talk about. Barry and I make it a point to touch on highlights of our days as well as things that might be bothering us. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to have these kinds of regular, meaningful interactions with your partner. That’s because communication develops trust, which leads to and sustains mutual respect. Without trust and respect, you’ll never be able to truly feel safe with another person or build a lasting relationship.

Ask for advice on issues that are troubling you. When you’re facing a challenge at work, your first instinct might be to approach people in the same business for advice. And if you’ve had an argument with a friend, you might ask a mutual acquaintance for insight on how to proceed. In either of these situations (and in many more!), ask your partner for advice, too. He or she may have expertise in areas that you don’t (and vice versa), and will probably also have a different perspective from your usual advisors. Asking for advice makes your partner feel valuable—but even if he or she isn’t able to resolve your concerns, this is still an invaluable way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in each other’s lives. Just be sure that you focus on mutual support, not criticism. I’ve always really appreciated that when I ask Barry for advice, he is not judgmental.

Verbalize your appreciation. When you’re in a long-term relationship with someone, it’s easy to begin taking him or her for granted. That’s why it’s important to consciously identify the contributions your partner makes and express your thanks. For instance, I often have a busy schedule with work, but I make it a point to prepare one or two home-cooked meals a week for us. Barry does not expect me to do this, though, and always thanks me for cooking dinner. His gratitude never fails to lift my mood. And I appreciate the fact that he appreciates me!

Give “just because” gifts. Buying unexpected gifts for no particular occasion is a great way to let your partner know you’re thinking about him or her. And you definitely don’t have to break the bank to say, “You were on my mind,” either. A book, a card, or a bottle of wine to enjoy together can send a powerful message of love. Personally, if I see great socks or shirts that I think Barry will like while I’m shopping, I surprise him. And I love it when Barry brings home flowers for no special occasion.

Anticipate each other’s needs. Taking care of something before your partner thinks to ask is a great way to show that you care. Once again, this isn’t something that needs to be a big production—little gestures can be very meaningful when they make life easier for your partner. Here are a few simple examples of what I mean: Barry loves to eat blueberries and peanut butter in his oatmeal, so I try to make sure we always have enough on hand. And not too long ago, when Barry had knee surgery, I made sure there was always fresh ice in the freezer so he could keep the swelling down.

Participate in activities you both enjoy. Find an activity you and your partner both enjoy, and whenever possible, carve out time to participate in it together. You’ll have fun while growing closer together. Barry and I enjoy going to see plays and movies, visiting museums, sightseeing around NYC, and more. But no matter what you do together, I recommend assigning this activity a slot on your calendar—otherwise, it might never happen! You know how it goes…life has a habit of getting in the way of our best intentions otherwise. I do want to include one caveat to this piece of advice, though: I’m not advocating doing everything with your partner. Continue pursuing activities that you enjoy and respect your partner’s individual interests, too. (For instance, Barry plays tennis and I don’t. I like to hike, and he doesn’t.) It’s important to nurture and develop yourself as well as your relationship!

Go on dates. Dates don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) stop after you get married. Continue to go out with your partner and do the things that helped you to fall in love in the first place. They’ll help you stay in love, too! On many Friday nights, Barry and I drive out to Brooklyn to eat dinner at one of the restaurants we enjoy. And often, we’ll round out the evening by shopping together.

Get away from it all. Barry and I both love to travel and always have fun on the trips we take together. But while relaxation and enjoyment are always good things, I think our vacations serve another purpose, too. When you leave your distracting, hectic, and (sometimes) hum-drum routines behind, you and your partner are free to focus on each other. Whether you’re on a weeklong tropical vacation or are simply taking off on a Saturday day trip, “getting away from it all” is a great opportunity to reconnect with each other and your goals as a family.

If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, what do you and your partner do to keep your relationship strong and fulfilling? I’d love to read your feedback!

The Art of Listening: Eight Tips to Help You Truly Hear Others

If you were asked, “Are you a good listener?” chances are you’d answer “yes.” Maybe you pride yourself on your ability to stay quiet even when you really want to interject, or maybe you believe that you give sound advice after hearing another person’s problem or dilemma. But as I was reminded recently, you might not be listening as well as you think!

While taking a mindfulness course, I participated in an exercise that required each individual and a partner to take turns telling one another a story. The catch was that the listener couldn’t react at all. No smiling, nodding, changes in facial expression, hand gestures, verbal responses, etc. I was surprised by the impact this exercise had on me. I really felt heard, that my words were being fully considered but not judged. Not having to “play” to the other person was incredibly freeing!

The truth is, there’s a lot more to listening than “just” letting people talk. Listening is actually a powerful skill that must be mindfully developed. When you truly listen to others, you give them the valuable gifts of respect, compassion, and acknowledgment. Becoming a good listener is an enhancement for your life, too, because it strengthens your relationships, helps you to learn more, keeps you in the moment, and shows others how to effectively listen to you.

Here are eight tips to help you cultivate the art of listening:

Eliminate distractions. Your physical environment can play a large role in how well you’re able to listen to other people. For instance, the hustle and bustle of a crowded restaurant might impact your focus and even your ability to hear your companion clearly. It’s not always possible, of course, but if you know that a conversation is important, be proactive about removing anything that might distract you from being totally present. Go to a quiet place, mute your cell phone, and turn off the television.

Turn off your mental track. Try to turn off the constant chatter in your head while the other person speaks. Don’t think ahead to formulate a response or try to figure out how to “fix” his problem, as this will distract you from being in the moment. Just listen. This will take some practice, since it probably goes against your habits and instincts! Try to engage not only your ears, but also your heart and mind, in fully understanding what is being said. Remember, a conversation in which you are primarily a listener is not about your own needs and desires, but the other person’s.

Be still. We are all familiar with the concept of an “animated speaker.” Most of us don’t think about animated listeners, but they exist too! Over the course of your next few conversations, pay attention to the other person’s body language as you talk: arm movements, facial expressions, shifting positions, etc. These things aren’t always, but can be, distracting. So especially when the conversation is serious or important, try to keep your nonverbal reactions to a minimum. You may find it helpful to clasp your hands in your lap and keep your eyes focused on a particular spot, such as the speaker’s face.

Restate what you heard. Especially when something important is being discussed, make sure that you understood (as opposed to simply heard) what was said. Once the other person has stopped speaking, confirm that you are both on the same page. For example, you might say, “So, what you’re telling me is that you think your boss has been avoiding you and you’re afraid you might be laid off, correct?” Or, “You aren’t sure how to resolve the argument you’re having with your spouse and you would like to hear my insights, is that right?”

Save your stories. When someone tells you a story, it’s human nature to want to fire back with your own. You know how it goes: “That’s so funny, because the same thing happened to my cousin one time…” Or, “I know exactly what you mean, because I was in a similar situation several years ago at my former job…” However, you need to suppress the impulse to respond this way, because it swings the conversation back to you. You may think you are connecting by finding common ground, but from the other person’s perspective, you’re downplaying the issues or concerns she has just laid on the table. Instead, stay focused on the point your companion is trying to make or the problem she is experiencing.

Ask how you can help. Especially if you’re talking to a friend or loved one who is going through a difficult time, you may want to find a solution or lessen the other person’s pain. However, keep in mind that sometimes what people need most is to unload and be heard, not to be fixed. That’s why I recommend explicitly asking the other person what he wants from you after he has finished talking. If your companion asks for your help or advice, give it. But don’t be surprised if you hear, “I just needed someone to listen. Thank you.” The fact is, engaging with other people’s feedback, especially when you’re upset, worried, or emotional, is exhausting. In my personal life, I find that I’m most honest and transparent with friends who just listen.

Be honest. From time to time, you may find yourself listening to someone who has the facts wrong or who is out of line. If this person asks for your feedback, how should you respond, knowing that she won’t like what you have to say? It’s not always easy, but part of being a good listener is being honest. You can’t condone the other person’s bad behavior or lie to them just to keep the peace. Be gentle, but tell the truth. In most cases, the other person will ultimately respect you for your honesty.

Keep it to yourself. Even if you think a conversation wasn’t important, be careful about whom you share it with. One of the most important aspects of listening is being trustworthy. This point may seem obvious, but the truth is, it’s often all too easy for your mouth to get ahead of your mind in conversations. And once you’ve developed a reputation as a gossip, it’s hard to repair. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful even after you’ve finished speaking with a particular person. You need to demonstrate that your friends and loved ones can feel safe with you, that you won’t spread their concerns around your social circle or judge them.

Overall, keep in mind that the art of listening revolves around being interested, not interesting. When another person is confiding in you, your primary role is not to be entertaining or even to offer solutions—it’s to show your companion consideration and respect.

Friendly or Forceful: What’s Your Feedback Style?

Have you ever thought about how well you hand out feedback? For most of us, learning to accept critiques (or constructive criticism) is something we have had to work on at some point. It’s not easy to be on the receiving end of a critique, after all. But have you ever stopped to consider how you measure up as the critic? Are you helpful? Or do your critiques end up doing a little more harm than good?

In my line of work, I’m often faced with having to critique the outfits my clients have put together, or even an entire wardrobe during a closet audit. I have learned that in order for a critique to be effective, you have to do it in a constructive, kind way that steers clear of being critical.

 

Get to the point quickly. Hearing a critique can be uncomfortable for some people, so it’s best to get right to the point. You’ll risk losing their attention and your point may get lost if you are too lengthy. Save your more verbose comments for positive praise!

 

Be honest, but in a kind way. Being a good critic means that you are also honest. For example, if you tell your girlfriend that you like her blouse to offset or “cushion” a critique on her current hairstyle, when you really don’t think that the blouse flatters her, you aren’t actually doing her a favor. Be honest, but think about how your words will feel to her so that you present your thoughts in a kind, helpful way.

 

Be specific on the takeaways. Giving feedback to someone is about helping him to improve something about himself, and that works only if you give him an alternative to the thing you are critiquing. Don’t just tell someone that he has a bad habit; offer some specific alternatives to what he is doing to help him create a new behavior that does work.

 

Be on their side. Friendly feedback should come from a place of genuine concern. You are giving out this advice because you want the other person to better herself, not to put her down. Be clear that you are on her side and are not attacking her.

 

Remember: Unsolicited feedback will do more harm than good. While the urge to help someone out may be strong, you need to hold back from doling out your opinion to others unless they have asked for it. They won’t be open to the advice, and you could harm your relationship if you aren’t careful. Likewise, if you ever find that you are being given advice you didn’t ask for, don’t feel like you have to take it with a nod and a smile. You can be honest and tell the other person, “Thank you, but I wasn’t asking for your opinion.” It will save you both from saying things that could damage your relationship any further.

Try to focus on giving better critiques in one area of your life, like at work or with a friend or maybe even your spouse. Think about how you’ve felt when you’ve been the recipient and what felt good to you and what didn’t—and let that be a guide for you. In learning to be good at this, you also become a better recipient of feedback.